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This is my personal website. My professional website is https://www.engineering.purdue.edu/~milind. The views and opinions on this blog are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

July 20, 2005

India trip 2005

Filed under: Pictures — Milind Kulkarni @ 10:51 am

Finally, in a fit of non-procrastination, I have put up the photos from our India trip. They’re not sorted yet, so there are just 450+ of them in one large directory. I hope to get them all sorted into sub-albums this afternoon some time. Until then, check them out here.

July 5, 2005

Procrasti-what?

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 11:13 pm

So still no India stories, as my lazy self hasn’t gotten around to getting the pictures off my camera and assorted CDs. But I have yet more post-India stories! Actually, I just wanted to claim that I owned jet-lag (or is that “pwn3d j37-l49?”). Two days after getting back from India, and I am pretty much completely over it (and I was pretty much over it the day after I got back: got up at 11ish, went to bed at midnight, and took it from there). I got up at 6:30 this morning, got to work at 8. Left work at 5:30 (without getting sleepy while there, and without the aid of caffeine), went for a short ride around 7, and here I am, at 8, about to eat dinner at a reasonable time, and not particularly tired. This is definitely the easiest time I’ve ever had with jet-lag. I rule! That is all.

July 4, 2005

The only thing we have to fear…

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 8:02 pm

I think my full-fledged India write-ups will likely wait until I’ve sorted through all the pictures I took (I was shooting at 3MP and filled up all my memory cards twice. I’m pretty sure I took somewhere north of 500 pictures) and jogged my memory. But there is an interesting story from my trip back home yesterday.


First, a bit of background: Livermore, where I currently am, is about 30 miles away from SFO, which is the airport I was using. Since I don’t have a car, I was going to rely on public transportation to get from the airport back home. This isn’t as bad as it sounds at first. BART runs from the airport to Pleasanton, where I could catch a bus from the station to pretty much right in front of my apartment. So it’s workable, but it takes a while. The BART journey is about 70 minutes, and then another 45 minutes or so on the bus.

So it turns out that a lot of what you learn in kindergarten might actually be wrong. I should talk to strangers more often. While still maybe half an hour away from my BART stop, I overheard a man who appeared to be a BART mainenance technician talking on the phone to his wife. Something along these lines:

“Hi dear, I’m going to be a little late.” “Yeah, I have to drive a train back from Dublin. There was a mattress on the tracks, the train ran over it, and it caught fire. I’ll be home around 1:30. Bye.”

At that point, I couldn’t resist: “Did the mattress catch on fire? Or the train?”

Turns out a mattress somehow flew off the freeway and landed on the tracks, near some massive resistors. These resistors are there to “soak up” excess voltage. As a train stops, the motors turn into generators to slow the train down (think breaks on gas-electric hybrids) and dump the produced electricity back onto the third rail. But the third rail can handle so much load, so once that limit is reached, the generators dump any excess onto the resistors. As a result, the resistors get very hot. So as the train slowed down, the mattress caught fire.

It apparently took a while for them to put the fire out, at which point they split the train up and sent the working half back down the line, and the non-working part to the end of the line (Dublin/Pleasanton), with the burned up mattress now in the train. So the technician I was sitting across from was going down to get the burned half (which was apparently still drivable) and take it back to the yard while making sure nothing went wrong.

By the time the story wrapped up, we had made it to Dublin, and myself, the technician and another passenger had progressed to discussing how the BART systems worked in general. Definitely a pleasant way to spend the last half hour of the journey. But now I was faced with waiting half an hour for the bus to arrive. Ugh.

While I was standing out there, the other passenger from the train passed by. He said he was from Livermore, and he offered me a ride. Throwing out yet another one of my kindergarten lessons, I took him up on it. There was a voice in the back of my head saying “Don’t. You shouldn’t do this.” But I after seeing Bowling for Columbine, I decided that Americans as a whole are just too scared for no good reason. That, plus being quite tired and ready for bed, meant that I got into his truck to head home.

I think that a lot of times, we forget that people are fundamentally nice. We’re predisposed to view everything offered with some amount of suspicion, especially when the offers come from strangers. It’s possible that this suspicion just feeds on itself. People are less willing to offer help because it’s met with distrust, and soon the only people offering help are those for whom the cynicism is justified.

If this were a fictitious story, about now would be where I say that, in this case, I should have been suspicious. But it’s not fictitious, and Tom, the guy that drove me home, is a genuinely nice contractor from the Livermore area who drove out of his way to drop off a guy that he’d known for a grand total of 5 minutes.

As I got to my apartment, maybe an hour earlier than I would have otherwise, I thought to myself: “I should talk to strangers more often.”

Done and done

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 3:02 am

Well, there it is. I’m back from India, having spent approximately 40 hours in transit. There is much to write and much to see, but that will probably wait until I’ve gotten over jet lag.

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